Chevrolet recently revealed details of the 2014 Corvette Stingray, the first Corvette to be worthy enough to bear the Stringray name since 1976. Those who buy one will join and long -- and proud -- line of Corvette owners, many of whom are living out a dream that took years to bring to fruition.
Typical Corvette owners are on the seasoned side but, despite the common myth, they aren't people who have flipped their lids or are going through a midlife crisis. Rather, Corvette owners have been influenced by the youth of a past generation.
The latest version of the iconic car, which gets better gas mileage and has more horsepower than previous versions, will be road tested in Europe over the summer before it makes its official release date this fall in the United States. Many Corvette enthusiasts are relieved to see the Stingray name on the latest Corvette because that means Chevy probably did not "water down" the 2014 Corvette to attract a younger demographic of buyers. To wear the name Stingray, the car has to be bad ass.
But why was there ever talk of changing a car that was so out of this world it captured the youth of an entire generation? Because this very defined market of dedicated car owners is starting to dry up. Before 2012, Corvette sales were slowly decreasing, something that put Chevrolet in the middle of a demographic dilemma. Corvette enthusiasts hope the company stays loyal to the people who grew up loving this car.
That love began in 1959 at the same time that America was infatuated with the idea of space travel. Alan Shepard was the first American in space and he happened to drive a Corvette. Shepard was not the only spaceman to drive an out of this world car. Later, the space team of Apollo 12 all had Corvettes.
Like most kids, the children of this generation saw these brave, exciting astronauts and wanted to be just like them. Kids looked up to these men of the late 1950s and early '60s the same way the youth of the '80s and '90s looked up to Michael Jordan. According to Specialty Equipment Market Association, the prime age demographic for Corvette owners is 49 to 63, making them the right age for astronaut worship.
"I have always wanted a Corvette. It was a goal to get one ever since I was a boy and remember the astronauts having them," says Rik Noring, 59, general manager of the Corvette Center of Colorado Springs, which restores and sells Corvettes, and a leader of various Corvette clubs. "It is more like a love affair with the car."
The deep passion for the cars could explain why Corvette owners maintain some of the most dedicated car clubs in the country.
"It took me until my fifties to ride in my first Corvette and it was love at first ride," says Harry Giglio, 67, president of the Looking Glass Corvette Association, one of more than twenty clubs in the Rocky Mountain Region.
SEMA reports Colorado has 11,804 Corvette owners, ranking 23rd in the nation. But this isn't shocking when you look at another demographic factor: the average age of Colorado residents is 34, an age group prefers a different brand of Chevy, the Camaro.
Camaros appeal to a younger crowed, usually ranging in age from 25 to 44.
And both cars appeal more to men. Among Camaro owners, 65 percent are men, while 79 percent of Corvette owners are male. Still, women are passionate as well.
Barb Zones, 52, is the Governor for The Top of the Rockies Corvette Club. She too has had a love for the cars since she was a little girl. Once she was able to afford the car and insurance, she finally got her "Vette" taking her husband along for the ride.
And although Camaros are cheaper than Corvettes -- $26,000 versus $57,000 for a 2012 model, according to the Kelly Blue Book -- most Covette owners wouldn't thinking about spending less money for what they see as a lesser vehicle.
"Corvettes cost more because they are finely crafted and a high performance machine. Camaro is not near the quality," Noring says.
Corvette owners' annual household income is between $105,001 to $250,000 as SEMA reported in its November 2012 issue. Camaro owners' annual household income is between $100,000 to $150,00. Information like this is what got Corvette's creators thinking about changing the car to make it more affordable.
But this has caused an uproar among the Corvette community, who feared that their passion would be watered down. "If they take down the quality of the Corvette it would destroy the car's reputation," Noring says.
The male midlife crises idea might have held some truth ten years ago when the boys of the astronaut eon where in their 30s and 40s, but as the youth of an era continues to age so does the demographic of Corvette owners.
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The cars quality and reputation could either be its saving grace or Achilles heel, but Corvette owners are not taking any chances: the National Council of Corvette Clubs has created The Future Corvette Owners Association, a club for kids up to age 16.
The goal is to secure the continued success and reputation of the Corvette.